The Great Resignation rages on as a record 4.5 million Americans quit

The number of American workers quitting their jobs hit record highs in November, with 4.5 million people walking off the job, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Tuesday. 

The rate among those who voluntarily quit was about 3% of workers in November, a high last seen in September 2021, which was itself a new record. An extra 1.4 million people were either laid off from their jobs or fired, and an additional 377,000 experienced some other form of separation from their jobs in November. 

The latest numbers reveal that the so-called Great Resignation shows no signs of slowing down, although it isn’t affecting all job sectors equally. About 6.9% of those working in the accommodation and food services sectors quit in November, while only 1.7% of those working in finance left their jobs. 

The number of private sector quits, which doesn’t include government or farm employees, hit a new all-time high of 3.4%, or 4.3 million workers, according to the BLS.

“The large rise in quitting remains concentrated in leisure and hospitality and retail trade, lower-wage sectors directly affected by the pandemic,” Indeed economist Nick Bunker said Tuesday.

However, the number of open U.S. jobs dipped to 10.6 million as of the end of November, compared with 11.09 million in October, led primarily by a 261,000 drop in the number of positions available in the accommodation and food services sectors, according to the BLS. 

“Accommodations and foods services continues to be a key sector to watch. While job openings decreased in November, hires held steady as quits continued to rise. Hiring remains higher than quits, suggesting that some who quit may be finding better opportunities within the sector,” wrote Elise Gould, a senior economist with the progressive Economic Policy Institute. 

In fact, while the overall quit rate across all industries is high, it’s important to note that hiring is even higher. “Hires are on an upswing as quits continue to rise. Workers appear confident to quit their jobs in search of better ones,” Gould noted.

Tuesday’s data, for the most part, predates the influence of the surge in Omicron cases. Only a small slice of the latest numbers reflects the impact, considering the latest variant started to hit the news in late November

Economists, including Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, have speculated that Omicron could affect employment rates and keep concerned potential workers on the sidelines longer. However, it’s too early to tell if those predictions are ringing true. 

“Workers being able to quit their jobs to take better jobs is a very good thing and signals an economy with healthy dynamism,” said Economic Policy Institute president Heidi Shierholz. “The dynamic we are seeing of a high quits rate combined with strong job growth is absolutely something to celebrate.”

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